What it means: This defeat extinguished the Cardinals' already slim playoff chances. Arizona can finish no better than 6-10. The Seattle Seahawks or St. Louis Rams will finish 6-9-1 or better because they play one another in Week 17. Arizona will suffer double-digit defeats in a season for the first time since the 2002 through 2006 teams made it five in a row. NFC West teams have now provided Carolina with its only two victories of the season.
What I liked: Steve Breaston's fumble recovery for a touchdown. The Cardinals' receiver has a knack for fourth-quarter heroics. The fumble he forced at St. Louis in Week 1 became the pivotal play in a 17-13 victory. His fumble recovery Sunday, after teammate Tim Hightower suffered another fumble, kept the Cardinals in the game. The Cardinals now have 10 return touchdowns for the season.
What I didn't like: The Cardinals' ground game stalled against a Carolina defense that has struggled against the run. Hightower fumbled again. The Cardinals had no rushing plays longer than 7 yards. That's difficult to fathom given the Panthers' struggles against the run this season. It showed, too, how limited a team can be with a rookie quarterback under center. John Skelton completed 17 of 33 passes for 159 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a 57.1 passer rating.
Trending: Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald keeps setting milestones despite the team's overall struggles. The 17-yard reception Fitzgearld made during the fourth quarter moved him past 8,000 yards for his career. Fitzgerald became the second-youngest receiver in NFL history to reach 8,000 yards. Randy Moss was 26 years, 297 days old when he set the record. Fitzgerald was 27 years, 110 days Sunday. Former NFC West standouts Torry Holt (28 years, 205 days) and Jerry Rice (28 years, 330 days) rank third and fourth on the all-time list.
What's next: The Cardinals return home to face Dallas on Christmas.